In border wall money fight, no clear path yet to avoid partial shutdown

Facing a Friday night funding deadline for dozens of federal agencies, the Congress has no obvious solution for how lawmakers will handle President Donald Trump's demand for $5 billion to fund construction of his wall along the border with Mexico, as Republicans don't seem to have enough votes in the House or Senate to back up the President's call for action on border wall money.

"They do not have the votes to pass the President’s proposal," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said of the $5 billion wall plan.

Instead of scheduling a vote on the President's $5 billion in funding for the wall, GOP leaders last Thursday sent the House home for six days, telling lawmakers not to return until Wednesday evening - about 54 hours before funding runs out for about a quarter of the federal government.

"Our schedule for next week remains fluid and subject to change," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), offering no clues as to how the GOP will deal with the possible partial shutdown.

The political battle over a shutdown became more heated last week, after President Trump sparred with top Democrats in an Oval Office meeting, as the President said he would be fine with a shutdown.

"If we don't have border security, we'll shut down the government," the President said, making clear he was happy to be blamed for any lapse in funding.

But if there is a shutdown, it would be much more limited than usual, because funding bills have already been approved for about 75 percent of the federal budget, including the military, Congress, energy and water programs, the VA, military construction, and more.

There are seven funding bills still to be dealt with by Congress and the President, they cover the following areas:

+ Agriculture - deals with farm programs, Food and Drug Administration, food safety and inspection services, WIC, and SNAP (food stamps)

+ Commerce, Justice, Science - funds the Justice Department, FBI, Commerce Department, National Weather Service, NASA, and other agencies.

+ Financial Services - This bill funds the IRS, Treasury Department, FCC, Small Business Administration, the federal courts, the government of the District of Columbia, and more.

+ Homeland Security - This is the bill which would contain money for the President's border wall. The House never voted on it, because the GOP didn't have the votes for the $5 billion in wall funding. The bill funds the Border Patrol, immigration and customs operations, Coast Guard, TSA, FEMA, and other agencies.

+ Interior - This bill has money for Wildfire prevention, the EPA, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, Smithsonian museums and more.

+ State & Foreign Operations - This bill funds the State Department, and foreign aid programs. Quick, guess how much money the feds spend on this funding bill, as part of an over $4 trillion budget. Time's up. If you said $47 billion, you win.

+ Transportation and Housing - This bill funds the Department of Transportation, FAA, Amtrak, and federal housing programs at HUD.

For some like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), it's no big deal if those agencies go unfunded, and into shutdown status.

There would seem to be several options for lawmakers at this point:

+ Ignore the President's border wall demands, approve the final seven spending bills, and adjourn the 116th Congress.

+ Ignore the President's border wall demands, and just punt the whole battle into the new year with a temporary funding plan for a few weeks, kicking it into 2019.

+ Approve six of the seven spending bills, and keep the Homeland Security Department on a short term, temporary funding plan, delaying a showdown over border wall money into 2019.

+ Gridlock - bringing about a partial shutdown involving the bills listed above.

The President is reportedly scheduled to spend 16 days at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida retreat in Palm Beach - it's not clear if he would change his plans if there is a partial shutdown.

The Senate returns to session on Monday afternoon; the House is not back until Wednesday evening.

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